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Sunday, 1 February 2015

My next textile travel destination!

Along with my passion for textiles, you've probably noticed that I love to travel, and combining the two is my idea of perfection. But the world is wide, and there are so many countries with rich textile traditions, that picking one to travel to can be a daunting task. Last year, I used the Lonely Planet list of Top Ten Countries for 2014 as a starting point. This list comes out every year in the previous October. Last year's top ten consisted of Brazil, Antarctica, Scotland, Sweden, Malawi, Mexico, Seychelles, Belgium, Macedonia and Malaysia. What a selection, filled with textile options!

I did a lot of research, made a shortlist and then narrowed it down before applying to the residency in Mexico. And, before I knew it, I was on my way.
The state of Oaxaca from the air.

This year's Lonely Planet list was a different story... Singapore, Namibia, Lithuania, Nicaragua, Ireland, Republic of Congo, Serbia, The Philippines, St Lucia and Morocco. Don't get me wrong, there are a few countries here with amazing textile traditions – Morocco, Ireland, Nicaragua, etc, but once I started researching I realised there are a few more criteria that need to be considered.

First, the textile tradition has to be one I can learn. So, as an example Morocco has the most wonderful textile tradition in making woven rugs, but weaving a rug is really beyond me at this stage.

Second, the textile tradition has to be alive, flourishing, being celebrated and taught. Ireland is famous for its linen and wool – think of the Aran jumper (or sweater if you're American) – but last time I was there, I really struggled to find a way in to an exploration of this tradition beyond museums and tourist shops.

Third, the language barrier. It helps enormously if someone has gone before and is providing the link between me and the maker. Both Lithuania and Serbia seem to have richly detailed embroidery traditions, but finding anything in English to connect me to it proved difficult.

And lastly there are the usual travel and interest issues. I don't feel comfortable putting Africa at the top of my travel list just now. Even though the continent is huge, there are plenty of other options to consider this year. Parts of Africa, however, are absolutely on my dream textile travel list for the future. Nicaragua also got crossed off this year due to its similarity to Mexico in terms of textiles.
A sea of bags in Oaxaca, Mexico.
So, where did this leave me? Losing hours and hours researching on the internet is where it left me! But, as is always the case, once you start seeking them out, opportunities appear. There were two trips that started to look like possibilities for India. I was hesitant at first because it seems that every man and his dog is going to India to block print textiles at the moment, but the more I thought about it, the more the trips seemed ideal. There's no way I'd head off to India on my own, and both of these options were with textile groups, meaning I'd learn a lot and meet contacts along the way.

This week I ended up having to make my mind up in a hurry. I got an email saying one of the trips would be open for booking at 9am PST (which is 4am my time!) and I knew it would book out fast. The second trip is still very much in planning stages, so I had about 24 hours to make up my mind...

Even though I felt dreadful the next day from a very restless night and little sleep, I can happily announce that it's done. I'm heading off on another Ace Camp with Angela Ritchie (the first one was with Maura Grace Ambrose of Folk Fibers back here), led by Heather Moore (wow, do I love her work! Check out her website here and her Instagram feed here) and leaving early October.

What an adventure it's going to be. I've already started my research and it's very likely that most of my projects this year will have a strong Indian influence. I'm getting excited already.


  1. Sounds so wonderful! I'll be watching for your travels!